Discipline is an important part of your child's development, which is why it's important to find a preschool that disciplines well and fairly. Of course, given that preschool teachers have a whole class of children to look after, the way they discipline will always differ somewhat from the way a parent disciplines just one child at home. As a result, many parents aren't sure exactly what to look for in a prospective preschool's behaviour policy. If you're in the same boat, here are 3 questions you can ask to help you.
1. What are the consequences for bad behaviour, and when are they given out?
Discipline is important for young children because it teaches them that every action has a consequence. The first and most obvious question you can ask each preschool's leader is about those consequences: what disciplinary action will your child receive if they misbehave, and when? In general, you should look for a preschool that has 'tiered' consequences, starting with verbal warnings for a first offense and moving up to higher procedures or calls home if the behaviour continues. This ensures your child will be treated fairly and allowed to make occasional mistakes, as all children do.
2. How do you use timeouts?
These days, one of the most common disciplinary tactics in any preschool is a 'timeout'. You may even use this method at home with your child. While timeouts can be a good way to help children cool off and reflect, they only work if they're done properly. When talking to prospective preschools, ask what their policy for timeouts is. You'll want to find a preschool that understands that timeouts should be a learning experience rather than a punishment or way to shame a child. The best preschools will make sure they talk to your child about their behaviour after a timeout. It's also important that they never leave the child unattended in a timeout; they should take place in the classroom under a teacher's supervision. Finally, check how long the preschool sits a child in time out. A good rule of thumb is one minute for each year of the child's age (for example, 3 minutes for a 3-year-old) and no longer.
3. What steps do you take to prevent bad behaviour and provide positive guidance?
Discipline is a valuable teaching tool, but if your child constantly lands themselves in timeouts or other disciplinary procedures, their preschool isn't doing enough to prevent misbehaviour and guide children in a positive way. Ask the preschool you're looking at what their preventative measures are. What do they do if a child is becoming angry, upset or disruptive? How do they cool down those situations and prevent them from escalating into a scenario that requires a timeout? Some good methods include talking with the child or giving them a calming activity to do. Likewise, how do they encourage each child to behave appropriately? Do they take time to explain rules? Do they teach lessons about how to get along with others and be a good friend? Preventative measures are often even more important and effective than disciplinary procedures, so make sure you find a preschool that recognises this.